Happier Holidays Begin Now

Margaret Farmakis
By Margaret Farmakis
Senior Director, Response Consulting

It’s that time of year again. If you’re an email marketer, you’re probably not thinking about hosting a back yard BBQ or staking out a spot on your favorite beach. Your head (and your company’s bottom line) is much more focused on what’s going to be in Santa’s sleigh this year and how you can use email to ensure that your customers will be decking their halls with your products this holiday season.

Most email marketers plan their holiday strategy in the summer, and this year is no different. However, this year does bring with it a greater set of challenges. The current economic climate is stagnant at best. While the financial pundits predict signs of an upturn any day now, that hasn’t translated to consumer spending. Purse strings are tight and marketers are going to have to work harder than ever this year to stand out from the rest of the holiday inbox clutter, resonate with their customers and provide relevant messaging that encourages brand loyalty and purchasing activity.

So what can a forward-thinking marketer do? The first step is to break free from the same type of “Free Shipping” messaging that was sent last year (and possibly the year before that, and the year before that). While discounts and savings are certainly relevant this year, sending the same one-dimensional messaging throughout the holiday season will only lead to subscriber fatigue (and possibly opt-outs and complaints) and won’t differentiate your brand from the competition. Instead, consider implementing these tips to help you stand out:

  • If you don’t know what your subscribers want to receive from you this holiday season, ask! The pre-holiday season (basically now through early October) is a great time to send out a subscriber survey that gives you insight into how you can really resonate with your subscribers this holiday season. What did they like (or not like) about your emails last year, in terms of content, offers, and frequency? What do they need the most help with? How much are they planning to spend, and on who? How can you help get them into the holiday shopping spirit? Offering an incentive (like an entry into a holiday contest, prize give-away or a coupon code) could improve response rates, and once you’ve received answers and feedback, be sure to actually use this data to make adjustments to your email program strategy.

  • Count down the season with a special holiday series. Ask subscribers for permission to send a new gift-giving series. Send the series once a day for a week or once a week for a month. Content can include gift ideas for her, for him, for the kids, for a budget ($50 and below), for the hard-to-shop-for friend or family member, or feature non-traditional gifts or eco-friendly items. Track sign-up rates and subscriber behavior across the series. Do all messages in the series perform well? Which ones get the most clicks and conversions? Which categories generate the most interest? The least? Start promoting the series in your fall campaigns and make it easy to sign-up for. Be sure that you set clear expectations about what subscribers will be getting, when they’ll get it and for how long.

  • Give a little something extra. While sending email is first and foremost about driving sales, show your subscribers that you can still embrace the true meaning of the holiday season. Inspire them to tap into their holiday spirit and connect with friends and family by featuring extra helpings of content in at least one promotion a week. Consider sending a favorite cookie recipe (and give subscribers a forum for sharing theirs), instructions for a family-friendly craft idea, how subscribers can start a new holiday tradition, ideas for festive activities, or a how-to guide for hosting a great party or mixing the perfect cocktail.

    The options are endless, and a little content (a few bulleted tips, a short checklist, a three-step guide) will go a long way to ensuring that your subscribers appreciate (and anticipate) your messages in their inbox this holiday season.

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